With memories of Team GB and NI's tremendous achievements in the Olympics still fresh in our minds, (as well as the disappointing performance of the England football team!), it is interesting to reflect on what makes teams successful and whether your team has all the ingredients it needs to make it a winning team. Effective teamwork is undoubtedly one of the hallmarks of all the really successful accountancy practices. So what are the key characteristics that mark out a team for success and what can you do to put them in place within your team?
A common goal
Everyone in the team needs to know what the ultimate goal is. All too often team members are busying themselves with their day to day activities without having a clear idea of what the ultimate goal is for them, their team and the firm as a whole. This needs to start from the top with clear strategic goals for the firm, supported by the respective departmental goals and then finally with the individual team member's goals. Once team members understand what they are aiming for they can pull together and apply their individual and collective efforts towards these goals and not waste time and effort directing them elsewhere.
To have the best chance of success, individual team members' personal objectives need to be aligned to the overall team goal. Ensure your team are engaged in setting their personal objectives rather than having them imposed upon them. Also it helps to consult with your team when setting your departmental goals, as they are then much more likely to feel committed to achieving them.
Behind every successful team lies an effective leader. The leader provides the vision and adopts the right behaviours to instil a team approach. They share management and involve others where appropriate. They are able to flex their style of leadership to suit the needs of the situation and the needs of their individual team members. They look to develop and enable their team members, building the future leaders of their firm.
Traditionally the leadership style adopted within the profession has been much more directive than consultative, i.e. telling people what to do and relying on their compliance or even obedience! When the situation allows, a more empowering style of leadership can be much more effective, engendering greater commitment from team members as well as generating new ideas and improvements to current working practices.
The team needs the right balance of membership and not just in respect of the number of people and their technical knowledge. An effective team will also have an appropriate mix of personalities who bring a range of other skills, values and motivations. For instance, some of your team members will have great organisation and implementation skills, other will have excellent inter-personal skills. Try and find them roles within the team that allows them to play to their individual strengths, instead of focussing on developing their weaknesses. Your team needs to be able cope with strong individual contributors or personalities but no one individual should be allowed to undermine the team approach by doing things their way and ignoring what has been agreed. An example of this happening in practice is when a partner or director short-cuts the delegation process by going straight to the assistant to get a job done rather than giving the task to the manager who is responsible for controlling the workflow of the team and allowing them to decide how the task should be delegated.
Effective work methods and procedures
For your team members to give of their best they need to be absolutely clear on what their role is within the team and the responsibilities they are expected to carry out. Too many firms have not recognised how important this is for the effective functioning of a team, meaning individual team members are unable to focus or prioritise effectively. This can result in wasted effort and de-moralised team members.
Poor communication of any kind will undermine your team's performance, so ensure your communication patterns are well developed. It is very rare that I would hear from delegates on my management courses that they feel they have ever been 'over-communicated' with! A team approach needs supporting with well-planned and coordinated task processes and efficient administrative procedures.
One only has to think of the Wales football team at this summer's Euros or the GB and NI Ladies Olympic Hockey teams to realise just how important the right team spirit is in creating a winning formula. With both of these teams it was a very clear that individual team members had a sense of belonging and a spirit of commitment to the aims and purposes of their team which translated into remarkable successes.
As the leader of your team how much of your personal energy are you devoting to building the team spirit and supporting your fellow team members? How often do you get your team together to celebrate successes, to discuss team morale or to get their ideas on how team performance can be improved? Team building events outside of the workplace can be great opportunities for developing team spirit, but don't underestimate the positive impact that an impromptu lunch trip or a round of cakes can also have!
Being an effective team member and a successful team leader takes knowledge, commitment and a lot of practice! Are the right ingredients in place for your team to win?
We can help!Ensure your team members have the skills they need to fulfil their own potential and thereby help your clients and your firm achieve their goals. See our latest course here or we can also tailor an In house course to your needs. For further information you can contact John Sharkey via e-mail or ring 0116 2581200.